Many years ago, I read a very useful tip in Bicycling Magazine.
The tip was about using the palm of your cycling glove to clean potentially hazardous debris off your tires while riding in order to avoid a puncture. Little did I know that this tip, which I've used successfully on countless occasions over so many years, would one day come back to bite me in the ass (almost literally!)
By many years ago, I mean back in the days when high-end race bikes cost a wallet-burning $2000, the lightest pro bikes weighed a feathery 19.5 pounds, and shift levers were brazed onto beautifully painted down tubes. And talking about those down tubes, all bike frames consisted of round tubes. So when you did this tip of cleaning the tires with your gloves, you gently touched the palm of your cycling glove to the tire while the bike was in motion. After brushing off the front tire, you reached back and brushed off the rear tire. Brushing off the rear tire was a trickier motion, so you reached back, felt for the seat tube, and then slid your hand between the seat tube and the tire. This was generally a safe thing to do, since between the round seat tube and the spinning rear tire, you still had a safe amount of space to work with.
Over the years, this practice became second nature to me, and I used it safely on six different bikes, all with round seat tubes. Then, one day a few weeks ago, I did it on my newest bike, a Giant TCR-C2. The one with the swoopy and curvacious carbon frame. The one with the compact geometry. The one with the airfoil down tube, which barely allows for a grain of sand to fit between the tube and the tire. This is how it went down, or rather, this is how the bike and I went down.
So I ride through a sandy patch on the road and hear the gritty sound of grainy rubber on asphalt. As always, I reach down and rub clean the front tire. Then I turn around to do the same to the rear, and the moment I feel the back tire, I realized that I was about to do something terribly wrong. As I make contact with the back tire, my pinky, then my glove, gets sucked into the airfoil. The back wheel locks up, the rear end slides out, and down I go.
It was quick, and thankfully painless. High-speed slides are easier on the bike and rider than low-speed slams. The bike suffered only a scuffed-up Ultegra shifter and a scraped-up Easton skewer on the rear wheel. As for the rider, my clothes stayed intact, but my butt and elbow shed a little skin, and that would become plainly evident the next morning in a most Jewish of fashions.
The next morning I'm at Minyan (yishar koach!). In an experience unique only to Jewish cyclists, I had the scathing pleasure to wrap Tefillin around fresh road rash. Yes, those first two wraps around the lower arm were indeed a bit to the sensitive side. Even better, the rabbi called me up for Hagba, where I and my sore and battered body would get to lift the Sefer Torah for everybody to see. Great! One day after nearly trashing $3000 worth of bike, I have to try to lift and not drop $100,000 worth of hand-made Torah, which itself weighs as much as a bike with Mavic Aksium wheels. Luckily, I didn't drop it, but my form was rather shaky.
Either way, the Giant, the Torah, and The Complete Jewish Cyclist all lived to fight another day. And BTW, if you do go down on your bike in the DC area, might I recommend having the folks at the The Bike Rack check it out afterwards. One reason my bike survived and survives is because of the phenomenal build and servicing my bike has received from them.